OutServe-SLDN closes headquarters, reveals organization is bankrupt

April Heinze, the chair of the board of directors of the lead “gays in the military” organization, OutServe-SLDN, revealed last night that the organization is basically bankrupt, and that it will be closing down its Washington, DC headquarters on July 31.

Heinze explained in an email to the group’s several dozen Military Advisory Committee members that the board of directors would continue to offer a whittled-down version of OutServe-SLDN’s core services of assisting LGBT service members in need (more details on that here), and that it will continue to hold its annual leadership conference.

Allyson Robinson SLDN ED

Allyson Robinson,
outgoing executive director of OutServe-SLDN

The news comes after two weeks of confusion following the allegedly accidental leak of an email by then- board member Sue Fulton, proposing that the board meet to seek Executive Director Allyson Robinson’s resignation.

In the email, Fulton made clear that “this isn’t working out,” referring to Robinson’s tenure as ED.   (Fulton later claimed that she was attempting to save Robinson’s job by asking the board to let Robinson go in a few weeks, rather than immediately.)

The dire financial straits of OutServe-SLDN go a long way towards explaining the confusion of the past two weeks.

Initially, Robinson’s allies said nothing was wrong, and that it was all board co-chair Josh Seefried’s fault

Josh Seefried

Josh Seefried, former board co-chair

Initially, some, including several OutServe-SLDN chapter heads, had suggested that Robinson was being fired because she is transgender.  They have now backed away from that charge.

And as recently as yesterday, former board member Fulton, who resigned, allegedly in protest over the fact that the board was considering removing Robinson (at her request, mind you), claimed that Robinson’s removal was due to the fact that former board co-chair Josh Seefried was jealous that Robinson was getting more media attention than he.  (Seefried also was alleged to have headed the now-debunked “anti-trans conspiracy.”)

Here’s Fulton, yesterday:

Sue-Fulton-SLDN

As a result of the ongoing attacks from Fulton and others, and in an effort to calm things down, Seefried resigned from the board this past Monday.  We now know that something much bigger than Josh Seefried’s alleged ego was going on behind the scenes at OutServe-SLDN.  Namely, the organization was in a financial meltdown, and it had been going on for months.

We now know that OutServe-SLDN is bankrupt

To some degree, this news was not surprising.  I reported over two weeks ago on the fact that OutServe-SLDN’s Chief Financial Officer Francisco Ramirez quit in May.  Ramirez issued a letter praising the board, and two past executive directors, but did not mention current ED Robinson, which was odd.  We also learned that the Treasurer of the board of directors, Tom Clark, resigned in April, and that development director (the man in charge of fundraising) David Hall stepped down in March.  It didn’t take Edward Snowden to guess that something might be amiss financially at the organization.

Francisco-RamirezJust how amiss, we now know.  According to board chair Heinze’s email, from January 1, 2013 to June 1, 2013, OutServe-SLDN fell $300,000 short of where it should have been financially.  As a result, over the past two months the organization was forced to borrow from the bank to pay for all of its day-to-day expenses such as staff salaries.  In the past, the line of credit from the bank was usually only tapped for exceptional one-time costs, such as paying for the venue for the annual dinner.  It was not tapped to pay for virtually 100% of the organization’s operating expenses.  The past two months it was, because of the $300,000 budget shortfall.

Even more troubling, Heinze reveals that OutServe-SLDN had a $150,000 line of credit from the bank – meaning, they could borrow up to $150,000, when needed.  But for some reason, the bank froze the line of credit when the organization had “only” borrowed $115,000.  That means that the bank was concerned about OutServe-SLDN’s finances, and its ability to repay the debt, so they stopped lending it money.  It also meant that an organization that was relying nearly 100% on bank loans to pay its operating expenses had now been cut off by the bank.

And that means you’re essentially bankrupt and out of business.

Occam’s Razor

We’re now presented with a choice.  Did the OutServe-SLDN board of directors consider removing Executive Director Allyson Robinson because:

  1. Board co-chair Josh Seefried is anti-trans; or
  2. Board co-chair Josh Seefried is jealous that ED Robinson’s name gets in the papers so much; or
  3. The organization went bankrupt and had to close its doors under her tenure.

I’ll let you figure that one out for yourselves.

Victims of their own success

We still don’t know enough of who did what to lead OutServe-SLDN into bankruptcy, but it’s clear the organization had problems.

If I were prone to conspiracy theories, I’d find it curious that former board co-chair Josh Seefried was the target of such ire from now-former ED Robinson’s defenders, when Seefried’s day job is basically serving as an accountant to the US military. In other words, he’s a numbers guy.  He knows the books best.  Who better to get rid of if you’re concerned about people finding out that there’s a brewing financial problem?  But, as I said, I don’t like conspiracy theories.

April-Heinze

OutServe-SLDN board chair April Heinze.

To some degree, OutServe-SLDN was a victim of its own success (though I seriously doubt that that’s the entire story here, or the board wouldn’t have tried to fire Robinson).  Still, it’s difficult to run a “gays in the military” organization after gays are now openly in the military.

We won.

And while the job is not over – there are no regulations specifically barring discrimination in the military based on sexual orientation, and trans service members are still not permitted to serve openly – neither issue appears to inflame the passions of the community as much as the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  And Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is now gone.  And the community has moved on to marriage, and ENDA.

OutServe-SLDN had to change as an organization.  The bankruptcy simply ensured that the change was more abrupt, and uglier, than perhaps one might have hoped.

Board Chair April Heinze’s email

Here is OutServe-SLDN board chair April Heinze’s full email to the Military Advisory Council last night:

To our dedicated members of the MAC:

We first want to apologize for our silence the past few days and weeks. We are overdue updating the MAC on the status of OutServe-SLDN, for that we apologize. Due to non-disclosure agreements and the time spent managing the evolving situation, we were not fully able to communicate with all of you as we would have wanted.

The Situation.

The situation is bluntly that the organization was out of money and could not afford to maintain staff and infrastructure. The organization’s assets declined $300,000 from January 1st to June 1st. Two months ago, the organization began to operate on a $150,000 line of credit which became frozen at $115,000, which meant we no longer could draw upon the bank’s line of credit to operate. Over the past two weeks, we have begun to shut down all unnecessary expenses and are negotiating loan repayment with the bank.

We will be completely honest, tomorrow, we are short nearly $2,400 to pay the remaining staff.

Over the next 12-18 months, the organization will be focused on paying down accrued debts, with our negotiations with the bank. As finances allow and likely at least a year away, the organization could rebuilt some functions in the realm of advocacy, development, or other support. Until then, the board becomes a working board–likely with additional actively serving members added to its ranks before the end of the month. We do believe we can rebuild financial stability in the organization.

Implications for the Staff, Office & Membership

  • Allyson Robinson’s resignation is effective tomorrow, July 12th.
  • The organization will continue as a membership organization for actively serving, veterans, and DoD civilians.
  • The office will by closed effective 31 July. The three remaining months of the lease are under negotiation and we will only have to pay for months the office remains empty (without a new tenant).
  • Meanwhile, board member Jonathan Hopkins is helping oversee the orderly closeout of our physical offices as well as managing other functions from DC.
  • The Legal Services function–as already announced–will no longer be internally handled. Select law firms have stepped up to outsource record correction requests and other legal issues
  • The Network and website will remain in place to keep servicemembers informed, connected, and supported.

Longer-Term Strategy.

The organization will transition to be more of a membership organization that still provides a network of social support for servicemembers, and also provides voice to those who still cannot speak honestly due to DoD regulations unfairly affecting transgender servicemembers. The cornerstone of OutServe-SLDN are it’s members. Therefore, the national leadership conference is expected to go as planned, which is especially important given its role in strengthening the network and developing our members. It also offers the only realistic chance of fundraising for the organization in the medium term to help pay down accrued debts. To manifest that transition at every level, the Board of Directors will also evolve, with the addition of new members including many actively serving over the next couple weeks. A Transition Committee made up of current Board Members and Chapter Leader representatives is working now on new Board nominations and ideas for the next phase of the organization. The conference will be a critical component in October as we, servicemembers, veterans and allies can be together in the same room to talk longer term strategy to rebuild the organization.

What We Need From You:

Your continued support. The mission of supporting servicemembers remains. Continue to tell the story of the power of this organization to connect others, empower them, and grow examples of leadership for the military and the LGBT Community.

Why does this matter? It’s just as Aubrey Sarvis used to say so often: “It’s for the Servicemembers.” And it’s the truth.

Thank you for your dedication, care and concern, and thank you for reading all of this. Please refer any questions to myself or Jonathan Hopkins at 360-957-5468. We want to keep you informed, and now more than ever need your continued support so the next evolution of OutServe-SLDN continues to meet the needs of our servicemembers.

Most importantly we want to say Thank You to the dedicated staff members who have remained. They have been incredibly helpful, professional and amazing through this difficult time.

April Heinze
Chair, OS-SLDN Board of Directors


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • Michael

    I wonder why there hasn’t been any follow up on SLDN, but also why neither the Blade or Metro Weekly did not cover the lack of funds issue. Perhaps this blog could do research and write an article on the connections between the writers/editors of those publications, and directors on various GLBT groups. It would be a fun research and read in the pursuit of truth!

  • Paige Dula

    So, Allyson is naturally at fault here? It had NOTHING to do with the fact that she came on after the DADT repeal? Can you not see how that would naturally preclude a serious drop in donations? The only major fights left are benefit equality and the ability for trans service members to serve openly. OutServe had an uphill battle to face to get funding regardless. Thanks to the loud voice of the HRC all anyone could hear the past year is MARRIAGE EQUALITY. That’s where all the donation $ went.

  • Stev84

    Their lawyers provided services with that and got people’s records upgraded. They advertised that on the website too. Maybe they could have done more about it, but they didn’t ignore it entirely.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Exactly. Like the Democrat party itself it’s front groups like HRC, SLDN and EQCA lack any semblance of a democratic internal life and are in reality, sinecures for self appointed movement hustlers.

    They lack any shred of legitimacy.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Bryan, you hate Josh. We get that. But in a discussion of whether Allyson Robinson did something untoward regarding the finances of OutServe-SLDN, it’s irrelevant whether you’re hurt that Seefried didn’t visit Bagram airfield in Afghanistan to to visit you. That’s not the topic at hand. We’re discussing the board trying to fire Allyson and the larger issue of the organization’s finances, and who if anyone is responsible for the mess.

    Feel free to disagree, but don’t come here and sound off about how Josh offended you, and offer that as proof that my story about OutServe-SLDN’s finances are wrong. That doesn’t even make sense. I get it. Those of you who had hoped this story would take down Josh are now upset that the truth is out there, and people know that the organize went bankrupt under Allyons’ tutelage. That hurts your case against Josh firing Allyson for being trans, or firing Allyson because she got more press than he. And now you’re upset that you’re story fell apart, and you’re taking it out on us.

    Well, I’m sorry. But the facts of the story stand for themselves. And your pique at Josh for not visiting you in Afghanistan has nothing to do with why OutServe-SLDN went bankrupt, and why the board wanted to fire Allyson.

    When you feel like giving us the courtesy of an actual explanation as to “why” my story is incorrect, and “why” I’m off my rocker, you’re most welcome.

    I do have to say, sadly, that I used to really have a lot of respect for both OutServe and SLND. People like you have begun to change that for me.

  • Bryan La Madrid

    So now your going to use your pedestal, however small, to try and bring your “truth” to try and clear his name? Yeah. Please.

    The BoD and the ED are all to blame for the financial troubles. Not the ED alone. Not the BoD alone. Its people like YOU who equate this win-lose situation who have it all wrong.

    Did Josh get to see how Out Serve Bagram banded together in a time of harship? (losing a shole chinook of SF soldiers, and many of our members were providing security, and recovery assistance) Did he see the unique band of brothers (and sisters) that were formed in hostile enviroments? No, he didnt. He saw his pockets filling up with money from a book that he sold highlighting other servicemember’s stories of service, while publically stating that proceeds were going to OutServe. He got his time in the spotlight… he got his time on all the News Shows, he got his time meeting “Very Important People” but he will never see how this organization has truly built itself. It was not him, like he claims, it was the Joes and Janes that were busy completing their missions, while supporting eachother in their local “Out Serve” Chapter. If anyone will be “losing”, its US.

    So keep writing your opinion-laced stories, trying to benefit those you think highly of, because many of us now realize how off-the-rocker you are, and will not be paying much more attention. Dont claim to be telling the truth if your not doing so.

  • emma852

    like Chris implied I am
    stunned that a stay at home mom able to profit $6772 in four weeks on
    the computer. did you look at this link w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    I worked on ENDA in 1996, and wrote some of the testimony for the famous Labor Committee hearing. There have not been a lot of poster-children for the bill in the ensuing 17 years. There have been for DADT and as you point out marriage.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    There are a lot of reasons you fire people, and a lot of them can easily happen in the first nine months on the job :) But as I said, this kind of speculation is continuing because the organization is playing nice and not saying why they wanted to fire her. They ought to just say it.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    How did Josh’s ego put the organization $300,000 into debt? How did Josh’s ego convince the bank to freeze their line of credit, and to do it before it even reached it max? And how did Josh’s ego get the CFO to quit and issue a letter thanking the board, the past EDs by name, but not the current ED? And how did Josh’s ego get the treasurer of the board and the development director of the organization to quit?

    It’s time for you guys to stop. First it was anti-trans bias, then it was Josh being upset that Allyson was getting more press than him, and now Josh’s ego convinced the bank to freeze the line of credit and sent the organization bankrupt. You lost. You guys tried to smear Josh, and you lost. The truth is out there now. Give it up.

  • emjayay

    Without again any particular knowledge, a month should have been long enough for an executive director to figure out what was going on financially and politically, come to some conclusions and figure out some options, and had serious meetings with management and the board and figure out what to do, and do it. Of course the facts about what grants dried up when and what donors pulled out when etc. A new mission and path should have been mapped out and started on within a couple of months.

    The other side of the story is that Outserve and SLDN only joined one year ago and Ms Robinson only started three months later. I’m thinking there’s a lot of story about the immediate pre and post joining period. And they needed a new ED from outside three months after joining? Did some big donors say they expected to keep funding and then all change their minds a few months ago? Certainly there was a lot going on.

    Looking at their website it looks like meanwhile the staff was pretty busy doing a lot of stuff. All kinds of things are scheduled over the next months. There’s nothing there saying Sorry – Thanks for Your Patronage – Final Clearance – Everything Must Go.

    Someone write a book or at least a New Yorker article!

  • Bryan La Madrid

    This is obviously a piece to try and repair Josh Seefried’s image. So who is in cahootz here… hmmm… People who know Josh Seefried from the very beginning know what he is like, and know that Josh’s ego had a HUGE part to play in this.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    the problem is that there’s no grass roots organization. You can run a movement from an office in DC. HRC is just a lot of inside the beltway back-slapping. They are good at throwing lavish events to congratulate themselves for nothing, but haven’t done a damn thing to promote gay rights.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I concur, and you’re right — it’s probably ‘over’ enough now that it’d be nearly impossible to reinstate DADT as official policy.

    The real shame though is the Dems (and the WH) did sabotage the window of opportunity to include anti-discrimination language in the repeal.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Hmmm… Any board votes happened with, you know, the board. The board doesn’t vote without a quorum of the board present.

    Second, who said she didn’t do anything wrong? You mean within a 9 month period the executive director can’t screw up the organization’s fundraising and bank credit? And ED’s never screw up in other ways, such as hiding things from boards, or lying to boards? There are a number of ways an ED can commit a fire-able offense in only 9 months. We still don’t have the entire story here. But the entire financial team quit, and the CFO was clearly not pleased with the ED when he quit. At the same time, the board tries to fire the ED. Something was going on, and we’re again playing this game as if everything was fine.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Regs don’t change that. Only a ban in the law can stop a future administration from reinstitution DADT. But it’s too late for that now. It’s over. It’s not coming back.And it would have zero chance of succeeding in court now. That doesn’t mean regs aren’t needed, but I don’t think that’s what regs accomplish. And even a law can be overturned by another law.

  • jixter

    Nothing is ever perfect, BeccaM – but we’ll continue to make our way, step-by-step, until there are no more obstacles to trip us up. “Winning” can seem like a long game, sometimes, I know, but we’ll get there.

  • Perspective

    Forgive the grammatical errors….those flowing faster than my fingers. :)

  • Perspective

    I agree with you on that as well, but I’m also realistic in my own efforts with non-profits. It seemed they pulled a Republican scam here. Ms. Robinson was only working with OS-SLDN for almost 9 months. To amazingly expect anyone to turn around an organizations financial trouble in that period of time is unrealistic. To dismiss the Director when that individual accord to reports from even some of the expected donors, was about to bring in some well need supports (especially financially) is organizational suicide.

    It’s obvious Mr. Seefried and his board who voted to have Ms. Robinson removed without the vote of, or knowledge of all the board members is very unprofessional and quite frankly underhanded and probably not the kind of people you would want running such an organization anyway.

    I can’t imagine how Ms. Robinson must have felt walking into that office the next day after that story broke to know that the same people who were laughing and talking with her the days before planned to get rid of her.

    It’s seemed their plan backfired, for even thought they got rid of Robinson as they planned, the donors and supports she was bringing in, also left. (Not a smart move, OS-SLDN current board).

    And for those who are assuming since DADT is gone there is no need for OS-SLDN and other similar Org, then have just thrown the members of the Transgender community who still can’t work opening the military, under the bus. Even with DOMA gone we still have the States battle, we have the Immigration issue, and the list goes on. Not to mention those in the LGBT community still have no protection under the law.

    It’s obvious the individual who wrote this article, despite the countless leaks that have come out over the last few weeks (and without the full context of the email) have made some huge assumptions. Yoru argument on Ms. Fulton is a contradiction in and of itself.

    OS-SLDN, again hired Ms. Robinson 9 months ago, and are now bankrupt (as they claim).

    Either Ms. Robinson ran the company in the group in 9 months (which they are not claiming) or OS-SLDN was in financial hardship long before Ms. Robinson came along and she is just getting the S**** end of the stick.

    If that’s the case then shame on Josh Seefried and current board for perpetuating this idea in the media and they deserve whatever comes to them in Karma because of there dishonesty.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Yep. Fresh, new injustices — especially when they happen to someone who has just served their country in wartime, and possibly even suffered extreme physical sacrifices — are telegenic to the extreme. Even someone who isn’t crazy about gay people might be inclined to say, “That ain’t right. They served, they shouldn’t be punished just because of who they like.”

    Active-duty or recently active-duty soldiers are all but revered by the general public. (To a degree I personally find somewhat disquieting, actually.) But what do we say about someone who was discharged twenty years ago, a few months shy of their pension? Or to use your other example, we all know that people are fired left and right, often for unjust or discriminatory reasons — not just for being LGBT. It’s hard to distill that to something other people can get worked up about.

    I think with DADT, it was a perfect combination of “self-sacrifice and duty” combined with the unfairness of being dismissed for this irrelevant reason. “I just want to serve the country I love” is an extremely powerful message and difficult to refute without coming across as petty, vindictive, and bigoted.

    Another angle that probably resulted in fewer visible cases of current discrimination is that if a servicemember is experiencing it, now they’re more likely to try to (or have to) work within the chain of command to resolve it. With the discharges, the military gave them no other option than to go public with it and to file cases in civilian courts. As I said, I actually think it’ll be some years before we see discrimination cases showing up in court… and sadly, they probably won’t attract the attention they should.

    I remain very, very disappointed the White House pushed to have that anti-discrimination language pulled from the bill. There was no danger of it not passing the House with it, and with a bit of arm-twisting it could’ve made it through the Senate, too. (My opinion…)

    In a way, you’ve given me pause to ponder that we could very well end up with marriage equality before we achieve workplace equality for just those reasons. It is oh so easy to point to all the individual cases and specific injustices — like Edie Windsor’s tax penalty, or the bi-national gay and lesbian couples, or even something like the right to make medical decisions. These are all concrete details even straights can understand and sympathize with.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    If I had to guess, it’s because we didn’t win any anti-discrimination protections, and we are — in my non-lawyer opinion — one executive order away from the pre-DADT situation.

    The UCMJ still says sodomy is a court martial offense.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Yup

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    And what made the DADT fight work was having a new victim soldier every week on TV. We don’t have that yet from the trans in the military. It’s the same problem we have with ENDA, unlike DADT we don’t have a new victim every week on TV. Same argument applies to use not having DOD regs. First off, “promulgate some regs!” doesn’t have the same PR resonance as “repeal DADT” or “enda the ban.” It’s far too nuanced of an argument (yes, the ban is lifted, but without the regs, at some future date, we might have problem….). People wont perk up until there ARE problems and there are victims on TV to rally around. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, I’m just saying that’s the way political organizing works.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Sorry, I don’t understand. How did we not win by repealing DADT?

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    The financial team would’ve been the first to know that something was very wrong. If upon reporting the growing shortfall, the executive and strategy teams essentially said, “Don’t worry, we got this, we don’t need to change anything,” it would come as no surprise the financial team walked.

  • http://www.gravatar.com/bonzeblayk/ Bonze Anne Rose Blayk

    “Still, it’s difficult to run a ‘gays in the military’ organization after gays are now openly in the military.

    We won.”

    That’s a fascinating use of the word “win”.

    I suppose one could argue that the US “won” the war in Vietnam… after all, we got a “peace treaty” before we “withdrew” our forces, right?

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Agreed. Vision and leadership — and a swift laser-focus on adapting to the new circumstances.

    The time to begin cut-backs, furloughs, and layoffs isn’t after the banks have cut off the line-of-credit. It’s before you even touch that money.

  • emjayay

    A lot of well thought out and informative comments below and post above. I have no particular knowledge of this organization, but one thing I do know: Blame always must go to the top. When DADT was ending, the person responsible for the direction of the organization should have been able to figure out what was going on, redirect, downsize, close the doors, whatever. Instead it was full steam and I suppose more importantly full salaries ahead while ignoring the books. The board should have moved a long time ago. It was a situation that particularly called for vision and leadership from the person responsible for vision and leadership and apparently that didn’t happen.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Agreed — they made many strategic blunders like that. In addition to what I wrote above, I realize now they completely missed another cause: The redress of the wrongs done to previously discharged servicemen and -women.

    The dishonorable discharges. The gov’t demands that sign-up bonuses and educational support be repaid. The confiscated or heavily reduced pensions due to less-than-honorable discharges.

    That right there would’ve been a powerful angle to work: “Were you discharged from the military because you were gay or lesbian? Whether it was during DADT or even before then, we want to hear from you.”

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    The other shoe drops. Thanks, John, for continuing to follow this story.

    OutServe and SDLN both did amazing and essential work over the years in helping undo the discriminatory travesty known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. In addition to lobbying, they also provided essential legal support for servicemen and -women fighting that irrationally bigoted anti-gay law and all the policies behind it. Unfortunately, as you say, Occam’s Razor applies: They didn’t plan well for a post-DADT landscape and went bankrupt.

    I’ve been thinking over the last day as to why two very important issues didn’t gain traction as new causes to champion — the lack of anti-discrimination rules for the military and the ongoing total discrimination against the transgendered in the service — didn’t take hold as viable lobbying efforts. Well, in the latter case, I think it’s that while American society and culture may be (nearly?) ready to accept gays, lesbians, and bisexuals as equals, deserving of dignity and equality, I honestly don’t think we’re there yet in terms of acceptance of the transgendered. As often as legislative efforts result in LGB’s being thrown under the bus (witness immigration reform), the transgendered are almost always already there.

    Put simply, people — including many in the gay community — aren’t willing to open their wallets to advance T* rights. It’s wrong, because we should all share in dignity and equality, but that’s just how it is.

    As for the other, efforts to prevent perfectly legal anti-gay discrimination in the military, here’s the problem: It’s too soon. Before DADT repeal, if you were gay and they wanted you gone, you were gone, end of story. The post-DADT situation is so new, even though I feel certain discrimination exists and has impacted the lives and careers of openly-serving gay and lesbian servicemembers, there hasn’t been enough time for stories of actual discrimination to be in the news or to be reported as pervasive at some base or under some particular top commander. In other words, there hasn’t been enough time for “openly serving” + “bigoted individual or organizational policies” to equal viable cases of demonstrable injustice and discrimination. No court cases as yet. No high-profile, “I came out to my commanding officer, and he immediately demoted me and reassigned me to a post in upper Alaska.”

    Essentially, I’m expecting that kind of thing to become clearer, assuming it happens (and I believe it likely will, given the heavily evangelical bent to some parts of our armed forces) in about 3-5 years, no sooner.

    So as I said the other day, in a time now when both OutServe and SDLN needed to retrench, streamline, and come up with new strategies, they did the worst thing either organization could do in a situation where they should have expected a dramatic shortfall in funding: They attempted to merge.

    Mergers are expensive. There’s almost always an intense resistance to eliminating staffing and infrastructure redundancies. From what I’ve been reading, the combined OS-SDLN board was HUGE. Add to this the fact that two different organizations will have two different ideas as to direction, and you end up with an inability to react to changing situations in productive ways. All the attention is directed inward, when what was desperately needed was a focus on dealing the most urgent challenge — namely, no money.

    Actually, I’m not surprised their bank cut off their line-of-credit before it was expended. They’re not dummies, and I don’t doubt it was noticed they weren’t just floating the occasional expense, but had begun drawing it down rapidly.

    Anyway, yes — partly victims of their own success, but also they made some bad strategic decisions in the immediate aftermath of DADT’s repeal. Both organizations should have been retrenching, streamlining, and consolidating, while coming up with new ways to push a new message. As the old trope about the dinosaurs goes, they were both too big and set in their ways to adapt to the new circumstances.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    YES!

  • Michael Bedwell

    As I’ve tried to repeatedly explain to you, John, that “there are no regulations specifically barring discrimination in the military based on sexual orientation” is a MUCH bigger, more critical, and intolerable issue than you seem capable of understanding. Would you remain as blase if “sexual orientation” was replaced with “race”? But, then, maybe you would have told Bayard Rustin, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, et al.—”What are you getting so upset about? YOU WON. Slavery is gone.” If you were just another member of the Community one could understand. But even though you’re not, are, instead, a longtime gay blogger who prides himself on the activist role he has sometimes taken there’s no excuse for your having acted as hoi polloi always has—simply WAITING for SLDN to TELL you what’s important. Which brings us back to the failure at the core of their self-destruction: they, inexplicably chose NOT to make people understand there IS still a war to fight so people stopped contributing to the war chest. To the contrary, they curtained off that fact with their endless, and worse, needless regurgitation of how “well” repeal implementation was allegedly going; AS IF repeal might be repealed if they didn’t—a possibility so remote no serious person would consider it. Imagine Martin Luther King investing any time in saying, “Yep! Emancipation continues to work well, just like we told you it would. THANKS SO MUCH—and pay no attention to that Jim Crow thingy.”

    For some inane reason, they simply chose to belatedly jump onto the anti-DOMA bandwagon, failing to understand that there were already mulitple end-DOMA advocacy groups with which the public already identified and were contributing to. In the process they abandoned the related issue which COULD have resulted in further recruits and the rebuilding of their war chest—the refusal of the Pentagon to provide gay military couples with multiple, crucial benefits that were NEVER banned by DOMA. And, in the process, further adding to people’s ignorance by inexplicably claiming that some of those WERE banned by DOMA. In short, they didn’t die of financial malnutrition—they committed strategic suicide.

    One last word. Though as recently as a couple of days ago someone who’s met her praised Ms. Heinze to me, I am appalled by her appearing to care most about that misguided mission apparently promulgated by some of the most vocal of the OutServers: creation of some kind of American Lavender Legion, a functionally pointless organization beyond back slapping and navel gazing about being in the service. And her echoing an insult that Sue Fulton has often excreted repulses me: “grow examples of leadership for the military and the LGBT Community.” I don’t know what planet they’re from but on Earth LGBT service members have DEVELOPED THEMSELVES as leaders under the worst possible conditions outside of war itself—keeping their full selves secret while being repeatedly demonized as a group by both their own government, their own commanding officers, and some of their comrades in arms. And out of that many of those veterans went on to not just be a part of the army that at least ended the ban but some also played major roles in radicalizing the broader gay rights movement including WWII veteran Frank Kameny, Korean era veteran Harvey Milk, Vietnam era veteran Troy Perry, and Vietnam veteran Leonard Matlovich. Yes, to end the Pentagon’s gay variation on Jim Crow, LGBT service members will need new shoulders to stand on. But I see few in the ashes of OS-SLDN strong enough.

  • chris from Florida

    The lgbt community needs to put its foot down with the HRC and get some real advocates for change in there. If they were more like Act Up or coordinated protests like what Dan Choi and other gay vets did to pressure Obama, then we could see a lot more changes in DC.

  • Vet

    While I agree that the demise stems from the repeal of DADT, the direction the organization was taken after the merger OutServe/SLDN was also to blame. The marketing materials continuously reminded the public that it was the “membership organization for ACTIVELY serving military,” which ostracized the many gay veterans who had previously funded the organization.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Well, what’s still missing is an explanation of who knew what when, and who did what when. We’ve not been told what the board knew about the financial situation, what the executive director knew, and what any of them did or didn’t do to make things worse or attempt to make things better. We do know that the entire financial team quit over the past three months, the CFO appeared to be miffed at the ED, and the board tried to fire the ED. I’d still appreciate more information be made public, but it starting to become more clear where all of the actual real information we now have is pointing.

  • Indigo

    And their gold on blue bumper stickers in Notre Dame colors are on every lesbogaymobile in central Florida.

  • nicho

    I beg to differ. According to the HRC PR releases, they are directly responsible for every good thing that has happened in the last 10 years. ;-)

  • Indigo

    Disappointing but inevitable. It’s too much to hope for that they disperse without rancor but they need to disperse. Others will pick up the reins later if the need is still there.

  • Indigo

    Without cocktail parties, our legislators wouldn’t realize what exquisite taste the Alpha-Gay Team have.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    Exactly. HRC spent far more money and has yet to accomplish anything.

    I’m assuming gays serving in the military are still going to need legal support. Perhaps there are other sources for that help. It is a shame that this organization had to get to this point. Someone (board, employees) should have restructured or made appropriate appeals before letting things get to this point.

  • dcinsider

    Man if I had donated a penny to this organization I’d be pissed. As a non-profit everyone, including the Board members, had fiduciary obligations here, and it’s painfully apparent that they did not meet those obligations. Not an expert in non-profit law, I wonder if the Board members might be personally on the hook for this debt if there was malfeasance, which appears to be the case.

    However, in the midst of bankruptcy, infighting, and collapse, it remains a more effective organization than HRC. At least it accomplished it’s initial goal. Millions of dollars and decades of cocktail parties later, HRC has yet to put a W in the win column.

    (I realize the post is not about HRC, but I hate to let a good opportunity to bash HRC pass.)

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